Birthday season approaches. From September until the end of the year, it is nothing but birthdays and holidays, just about one event a week. Ben and I take birthday/holiday season very seriously. We start celebration plans and gift lists months ahead. This year, my best friend's wedding is thrown into the mix and I have become a frenzied and obsessive toast-writing, dress-shopping, perfect-gift-finding, and budget-bludgeoning madwoman. My Dragon Quest IX mission to kill the Wight Knight has not been of the utmost concern to me. But in this time of impending nuptials and birthdays, my sappy side is oozing. Even Dragon Quest IX made me sentimental.
I went through most of this game like a lonely tired soldier. The game moved forward like a dutiful trudge. The fat strategy guide sat limp in my lap; it helped me go through the motions. I played sleepy-eyed and dreary, only perked up by the occasional skirmish with a Teeny Sanguini or Cruelcumber. I progressed, but the journey meant nothing to me.
I played through Angel Falls by myself and, although I didn't hate playing it, I didn't care about playing it which might even be worse. I didn't know why I was playing it besides completing the mission I had set out for myself.
Then one night Ben sat down next to me and watched me play. We started discussing the game and what I should do next. He showed me things I could do that I had never noticed before. We laughed at my poor sense of direction. He encouraged me to slow down and pay attention. Most importantly, he showed me how to recruit a party, meaning I could make new characters that would play with me and fight with me and go with me wherever I went.
Jhonen was sitting on the bed with us and I asked him what I should name my first character. He looked at me, thought about it for a second and then said, “Jhonen?” I laughed and almost cried a little because it was such a sweet response. “Yes! That's the perfect name!” So I made a little martial artist named Jhonen with some awesome green hair. Then I created another character, a mage, and asked Ben what I should name him. He said, “Beans.” Perfect. I made my mage tall with no hair and amazing healing abilities. Then I made a tiny girl warrior with pink pigtails named Leelot. My family was complete. Suddenly I was having fun! I felt connected to the Dragon Quest world. I felt like I could successfully fight that Knight. And seeing that adorable foursome walk around together while my real family foursome lazed around together made me so happy.
I feel very fortunate that I haven't endured many truly lonely times in my life, but I do remember how those times felt. Loneliness makes you feel disconnected from the world, it makes you go through the motions to reach goals you don't care much about. I remember that detached, hopeless feeling and it sucks. I know that weddings are often flashy displays of canned phrases, cheesy music, bad banquet food, and outrageous expense, but they are also one of the few times when people come together to celebrate love and commitment and devotion and hope for the future. Weddings are an opportunity for two people to say to the world, “This is who we are, this is what we've decided for ourselves, and we are thankful that you are here to support us in that decision.” I have trouble with the idea of people being "blessed." I have trouble with the concept of having a "soul mate." I have trouble believing in angels. But I do believe that committing your life to loving other people based on knowing them so completely that you love them despite (and sometimes because of) their faults can save you from the dreaded loneliness - the kind of loneliness that makes you trudge through life like it's a duty instead of a joy. Strangely, Dragon Quest IX reminded me of that and I'm grateful it did.
Dragon Quest IX also showed me that I can play and might even enjoy playing RPGs, I just don't like to play them alone. Ben and I are thinking about playing through Final Fantasy XIII together, only instead of him playing while I watch, I'll play and he'll watch. The man doesn't always have to wear the pants in the video game playing family. Right, ladies? Speaking of ladies in pants, my next game assignment is Bayonetta for PS3 – a game that features a hot lady in hot black leather pants. Watch out, boys. I'm gonna kick serious butt in seriously high heels....heels that shoot bullets.